3,000-year-old canoe recovered from Wisconsin’s Lake Mendota

MADISON, Wis. — On Thursday, Wisconsin Historical Society maritime archaeologists and Wisconsin’s Native Nations recovered a 3,000-year-old canoe from Lake Mendota.

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According to WFRV, the canoe was at first located by Tamara Thomsen, a maritime archaeologist with WHS. Thomsen went on a dive during a recreational dive last May and found it about 100 yards where another canoe was found before.

In a news release from WHS, discussions began to recover the canoe soon after Thomsen located it along with Wisconsin’s Native Nations.

“Finding an additional historically significant canoe in Lake Mendota is truly incredible and unlocks invaluable research and educational opportunities to explore the technological, cultural, and stylistic changes that occurred in dugout canoe design over 3,000 years,” said Dr. James Skibo, Wisconsin Historical Society state archaeologist, in the news release. “Since it was located within 100 yards of where the first canoe was found at the bottom of a drop-off in the lakebed, the find has prompted us to research fluctuating water levels and ancient shorelines to explore the possibility that the canoes were near what is now submerged village sites.”

According to WFRV, the canoe was carved out from a single piece of white oak and is about 14.5 feet long. Radiocarbon dating was performed and placed it to 1000 B.C., which is the oldest one ever discovered in the Great Lakes area by a thousand years.

“The recovery of this canoe built by our ancestors gives further physical proof that Native people have occupied Teejop (Four Lakes) for millennia, that our ancestral lands are here and we had a developed society of transportation, trade and commerce,” said Ho-Chunk President Marlon WhiteEagle, in the news release.

Once the canoe was removed, it was taken to the State Archive Preservation Facility in Madison in order for it to be preserved and for storage, according to WFRV. The canoe will be cleaned and cared for by tribal members and society staff before it will be stored with a 1,200-year-old canoe that was discovered last year.

According to WFRV, the two canoes will be go through a two-year process to preserve it, which includes freeze-drying that will help to remove any water that is still there.

“I was amazed when a 1,200-year-old canoe was uncovered last year, but this discovery of a canoe dating back to 1000 B.C. is just extraordinary,” said Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers, said in the news release. “This incredible finding provides an opportunity for us to work in concert with Tribal Nations to not only study but celebrate the history of the Indigenous people who’ve called this land home since long before Wisconsin became a state, and I look forward to learning more about this artifact’s origins.”

More information can be found by visiting the Wisconsin Historical Society’s website.

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